Friday, August 13, 2010

Law minister promises consultations on electoral reforms

The government on Friday expressed its inability to enforce compulsory voting in India.Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said in the Lok Sabha that people can't be forced to Vote. Moily said that he was not against compulsory voting, but added that he is against enforcing the idea through a stand alone law, reports The Hindu.

Read the article on Miracle Of Democracy.

Observing that people cannot be forced to vote till they have a choice to elect candidates with a clean image, the government on Friday expressed its inability to enforce compulsory voting in the country.

“Till the time people have a choice to vote for candidates with clean image, they cannot be forced to vote. It would be fatal for democracy and lead to disillusionment,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said in the Lok Sabha.

He was replying to a private member’s bill on compulsory voting tabled by J.P. Agarwal (Congress), who later withdrew it.

Mr. Moily said while he was not against the idea of compulsory voting, “a stand alone law won’t take us anywhere.” He said enacting another law was not a remedy. “It should not be ornamental. We have to add flesh and blood to it,” he said.

The Law Minister said the Dinesh Goswami Committee formed in the 1990s had delved into the subject of compulsory voting and recommended against it as it was found to be impractical.

He said situations like illness, preoccupation and use of force by political parties can prevent people from voting.

While expressing concern over low voter turnout, Mr. Moily said it was not a reflection on the electorate. He claimed that illiterate people were more aware of their rights as voters than the educated lot.

Mr. Moily said there was no dispute with any aspect of the bill moved by Mr. Agarwal.

“This Bill has provided a roadmap on how to enlighten the electorate and reach that goal. Voting is as much a duty of the voters as it is to taxation and other such duties. Voters are the foundation of this great democracy. It is a fundamental duty every citizen should perform,” he said.

Pointing out that about 31 crore out of the 71 crore voters do not vote, Mr. Moily wondered if candidates winning with less than one-sixth of the votes polled reflected the will of the electorate.

“Clearly, we cannot boast of being the largest democracy with the largest electorate in the world, if this situation prevails. It will be a tragedy, travesty of democracy...we have to set this right,” he said.

Wondering if it was necessary to “motivate, coerce and tempt” voters to exercise their right to franchise, Mr. Moily said, “It will be ideal when a day comes when we need not canvass for votes and the entire electorate comes out to vote voluntarily. This will certainly happen one day. All of us (members) should work towards this.”

He said the situation would be called ideal if voters can come out and vote fearlessly. “Voters have several reasons to keep away from voting. Fearlessness will liberate a person. Voters should come to polling booths without fear of violence and persecution,” he added.

Pointing out that compulsory voting was experimented in 20 countries, the Minister said all of these nations continued with this policy even today as it was proved successful.

Mr. Moily said many voters, after registering, found their names struck off from the electoral rolls, adding the government planned to bring in accountability in enumerators.

“Election is a festival of democracy that we enjoy. Conduct of free and fair elections depends on the performance of three stakeholders — the election machinery, political parties and the electorate. All of them must be responsible. I think somewhere we missed accountability,” he said.

The Minister said he planned to hold a national consultation on comprehensive electoral reforms in three months and a quick perception study or survey to find out why people kept away from voting so that a viable solution could be found to the problem.

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